Cutting Down on Paper Towel Use

Posted on January 22, 2010 by Michelle


photo: sunshinegrovefarm

The following is a guest post by Michelle.  Also check out the great post she wrote over at her blog, Leisure with Dignity, about her greener goals for 2010.  If you’re interested in guest posting at The Greenists, email courtney at thegreenists dot com for more info.

We are all familiar with ways to live “greener”.  You can drive less, use reusable water containers instead of bottles, buy local, and cut back on waste and needless garbage.  I hear these things pretty frequently.

But how many times do I actually implement these things in my day-to-day life?  I’m so used to the convenience of plastic storage bags, bottled water, paper towels, and the easier to get to large chain grocery store.  So I don’t implement greener choices as often as I’d like.  I live a life of convenience, as most of us do in the United States, but this year I’ve decided to make some changes in the small things. I’m trying to eschew convenience.

One of the things that I have found to be the easiest to change has been paper towel use.  I find myself using them for just about everything, probably because that has been my habit for years.  I just reach over after doing the dishes and grab one to wipe up water, or after cooking to wipe up the inevitable splatters. Where I could just as easily grab a dishtowel or washcloth to do that job.

So, I bought a cheap bulk pack of white washcloths and have been using those to wipe counters and spills.  I kept some old dishtowels that don’t match our kitchen to use to clean up larger messes or scrub spots on the carpet.  Instead of reaching for paper towels (as often – I admit, my old habits die hard!), I just grab a washcloth or old dishtowel, and then when we do our load of towels and sheets for the week, these towels just go right into that load.

A good way to encourage yourself to keep and use cloth instead of paper options is to buy (or make) your own cute dishtowels and dishcloths.  Etsy is an excellent place to find handmade dishcloths, like the ones above from sunshinegrovefarm or you can find a free pattern on the internet and make them yourself like I’ve been doing.

The key to overcoming any bad habit is provide yourself with easy and likable alternatives.  And there’s nothing wrong with cute rewards like handmade towels and napkins to encourage your new good habit!


  1. Isn’t it true? When you just get rid of them, you find other ways to make do!

    My roommates and I were too cheap to buy paper towels one day in college, so we just found other things to use. Cloth wash clothes and towels – so much cheaper.

    And saves TONS of waste. It’s simple, really. :)

    January 22nd, 2010 at 2:46 pm
    Comment by OurLittleAshley
  2. The handmade dishcloths would be such a great way to use up the odds and ends I have in my yarn drawer!

    January 23rd, 2010 at 8:57 pm
    Comment by Allie
  3. I make all of the dish cloths we use. Mostly they are practice for a new stitch I’m trying out.

    January 24th, 2010 at 10:32 am
    Comment by Howling Hill
  4. That’s what I did – stopped replacing them when I ran out. I already had old cloths to use in place of paper towels, and even if I buy 3 more it’s greener than 4 6-packs of paper towels and much cheaper too.

    February 8th, 2010 at 3:39 pm
    Comment by Running Betty
  5. Making the conscious choice to make this change happen is the biggest hurdle. Congratulations on taking that step.
    How is the is the support in the rest of the household? This I find is a big wall to overcome…Especially where it comes to convenience.

    Thanks for the great hints.


    March 2nd, 2010 at 11:19 pm
    Comment by Robert

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Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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